Owner and Founder of Babcock Hoops, Matt Babcock, kicks off the basketball season with a recap of his first scouting trip of the year.
Throughout my professional career in basketball, I have served as a coach, an agent, a scout and a media member. Regardless of my role, one thing has always remained the same: during the season, there are always countless games and practices to attend.
For anyone working in basketball, travel is aggressive and schedules are always full. Following the NBA Summer League in July each season, the professional basketball world slows down considerably for a couple of months, and subsequently, required travel for everyone involved slows down too. This is generally when people within the industry take some time off work, likely using frequent flyer miles and Marriott points that have been compiled throughout the season to take a well-deserved vacation.
However, for me personally, I only need a short break to regroup before I get 'ants in my pants'. Despite a casual trip here or there to see a player workout or a summer tournament or camp, August and September each year usually consist of me being home watching film on InStat from the season before, obsessively checking my phone and computer for college basketball schedules to be released, and desperately seeking anyone that would like to talk hoops with me. Despite all of the great quality time with my wife and kids, from a work standpoint, I basically just wait impatiently for it all to begin again.
A couple of weeks ago, as I was still waiting for the season to begin and in the remaining moments of the 'calm before the storm' phase, I received a phone call from my good friend and renowned personal trainer, Frank Matrisciano. He invited me to come to Phoenix, Arizona to see two top high school players, MarJon Beauchamp and JD Tsasa. Both players had recently committed to Frank's newly launched Chameleon BX, a company that provides an alternative option for top high school players to forego college, and instead prepare for the NBA draft year-round. In these players' cases, specifically, they will begin draft preparation this June, but will not be eligible to be drafted until the 2021 and 2022 NBA drafts, respectively.
My primary focus for NBA draft coverage is to evaluate prospects generally playing in college and overseas that will likely be in the upcoming draft. However, I believe it is always advantageous to get a head start on younger prospects, too. This concept is a big reason I have partnered up with Babcock Hoops draft analyst Matt McKay, Jr. to create Pro Insight, a scouting database that covers top prospects worldwide, ranging from high school freshman to imminent draft prospects. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I accepted Frank's invitation, and subsequently my 2019-20 scouting season began with a trip to Phoenix, Arizona.
The first thing on my agenda when I arrived in Phoenix was to sit down and chat with MarJon, JD and their parents, so that I could get to know them a bit and provide them with some advice. Following our sitdowns I was able to watch the players work out with former NBA player Eddie Johnson. A workout I found to be refreshing, as Eddie utilized a large portion of the workout to break things down and teach rather than just have the players stay active -- coaching tactics that are underused in this day and age, in my opinion. When the workout finished, I walked away that night thoroughly impressed with the players both on and off the court. I look forward to tracking their progress, especially once they have had a larger sample size of working with Frank on physical development and on the court with the Chameleon BX coaching staff, which is comprised of former NBA head coaches such as Dave Joerger and Mike Woodson.
That next morning, I stopped by Arizona State to see their first practice of the season. As much as it pains me to say it, as I am an alumni of the University of Arizona and a loyal Wildcat, Bobby Hurley has a good thing going in Tempe. Despite me having been behind enemy lines, I was given a warm welcome by everyone there. I enjoyed chatting with Coach Hurley, his staff, and many of their players before and after their practice. Hurley conducted a great practice. I was impressed. Although their team has lost quite a bit of talent from last season, including Zylan Cheatham (New Orleans Pelicans) and Luguentz Dort (Oklahoma City Thunder), they have some intriguing prospects returning. Rob Edwards, who is in somewhat of the same mold as former NBA player Ben Gordon, is a strong, athletic shooting guard who can shoot the lights out. Still trying to recover fully from a back injury, Edwards, a senior, should be the primary scoring option this season if he is able to stay healthy. He just might be the key to Arizona State finding success this season. Another player worth noting is Kimani Lawrence, a versatile forward who can defend just about anyone on the floor and provides a lot of valuable intangibles to the Sun Devils. Both are players that I consider to be at least fringe NBA draft prospects at this point, and certainly players I will keep a pulse on.
After the Arizona State practice ended, I drove to the airport to catch a flight back home to Denver, Colorado, and, just like that, my 2019-20 basketball season had begun.
Next stop: Knoxville, Tennessee.